Moving swiftly since his return to Washington from Beijing Friday, Huntsman filed paperwork with the Federal Election Committee to begin “H PAC,” an organization that his aides say will be the last placeholder before a full-blown campaign. There will be no testing-the-waters entity or exploratory committee. [...]
Huntsman heads to South Carolina, home to the first-in-the-South presidential primary, on Saturday to address graduates of the University of South Carolina. He’ll also meet privately while in Columbia with local Republicans. Aides say that the drafting of the speech is a group effort and that it will stick mostly to typical graduation themes. Later in the month, the Utahn will visit New Hampshire and deliver a college commencement speech there.
Even with the apparent enthusiasm of Republican elites, Huntsman remains ill-suited for GOP primary voters. Prior to his appointment as ambassador to China, Huntsman was a voice of Republican moderation on issues like immigration, the environment, and gay rights. As governor of Utah, he accepted federal stimulus funds and castigated fellow Republicans for refusing to follow his lead. Before joining the Obama administration, his only attack on the president came from the left, when he complained that the stimulus was "too small." Yes, Huntsman is anti-abortion and pro-gun, but he's been absent from the economic debates of the last two years and has yet to establish his Tea Party bona fides.
Huntsman will probably spend the next year parroting talking points and lambasting the president, but it won't matter; his moderate persona is too well established, and Republicans already have one insincere ex-governor to choose from.